This ethnographic research examines language socialization practices and language ideologies in secular Yiddish “metalinguistic communities,” communities of positioned social actors shaped by practices that view language as an object. “Metalinguistic community” is a framework for diverse participants who can experience both distance from and closeness to the language and its speakers, due to historical, personal, and/or communal circumstances. Through an examination of classroom interactions in California, this article shows how simultaneous distancing and closeness experienced by metalinguistic community members can manifest in “contested stance practices,” public demonstrations of language ideologies that reveal both internal and external tensions. Contested stance practices reveal how members’ perceptions of language are shaped by their personal histories and those of their imagined communities; these practices become a fertile means through which individuals negotiate their relationships with language as a symbol of identity, ideology, and community.
Present-day Southeastern Yiddish (sey) is a relatively young dialect, probably formed after the Khmelnytskyy massacres of 1648. Was the primary force in its historical phonology the influence of coterritorial languages, of other dialects, or internal factors? How important was the role of homonymy and the functional load of specific phonemes? Internal factors that may have had the greatest influence on the development of sey are best sought in the transitional dialects on the fringes of sey.
From the 19th–20th-century beginnings of modern linguistics, scholars reported on various results of interactions between diverse language speakers; but it was only with Uriel Weinreich’s Languages in Contact (1953) that a solid theoretical basis for the systematic study of contact linguistics was elaborated. The present article studies lexical influences from South Slavic on Judezmo (Ladino/Judeo-Spanish) resulting from contact during the 16th–19th centuries between speakers of these two languages in the regions that, between 1918 and 1992, were known jointly as Yugoslavia. During the Ottoman and then Austro-Hungarian periods, borrowings in local Judezmo from South Slavic were relatively few compared with Turkisms. But from the nineteenth century, when the South Slavs gained political independence, Serbo-Croatian exerted an ever-increasing influence on Judezmo in this region. The case of Judezmo there differs considerably from Yiddish in Slavic Eastern Europe throughout the same period, as described by Uriel Weinreich and others.
This study examines the production and use of the rise-fall contour by three Yiddish/English bilinguals in a small American Jewish community. Acoustic analysis shows that the Yiddish rise-falls have higher peaks, larger rise spans, and later Tonal Centers of Gravity compared to a similar intonational contour in English. These results hold for all three speakers despite their diverse linguistic histories. Additionally, evidence is provided that rise-falls with higher peaks have social meaning in both languages. English rise-falls are produced with higher peaks during meetings of a local Yiddish club than during one-on-one interviews, and rise-falls with high peaks are used in both Yiddish and English during an exchange in which one of the speakers discusses his relationship to Passover. The social meaning of the phonetically extreme rise-falls is posited to be the reason why all three speakers have either successfully acquired or maintained phonetic distinctiveness between their English and Yiddish.
In this article, William Labov offers a personal take on the scholarly accomplishments and advising style of Uriel Weinreich, his mentor and later his colleague as well. He also draws on letters he and Weinreich exchanged in the mid-1960s, and he documents aspects of the collaboration that resulted in Weinreich’s most lasting contribution to the study of language change, the 1968 Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog paper (U. Weinreich, W. Labov, and M.I. Herzog. “Empirical Foundations for a Theory of Language Change,” in Directions for Historical Linguistics, eds. W.P. Lehmann and Y. Malkiel. Austin: University of Texas Press, 95–195).